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Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Nineteen Hells Angels gang members indicted in South Carolina

Twenty or so bikers were arrested Thursday during an FBI-led raid in the Carolinas that targeted a prominent chapter of the Hells Angels. While the arrests themselves were noteworthy, the interesting news comes from the indictments that accompanied the arrests, which, as the the Charlotte Observer explains, offer "a rare glimpse into the secret workings" of the notorious biker gang, which the feds describe as a highly-organized drug-dealing enterprise that uses intimidation and violence to promote "a climate of fear." The arrests (the exact number is either 19 or 20, depending on whether you listen to the Observer or the Associated Press) were the culmination of a two-year investigation by the FBI and local law enforcement agencies into the Rock Hill City chapter of the group made (in)famous, in part, by Hunter S. Thompson's 1966 new journalism classic Hell's Angels. Among the insider details revealed in the 91-count indictment: The clubs has a strict organizational structure not unlike one you might find at your local rotary club (from president to treasurer and on down to the rank-and-file members). The gang refers to their regular chapter meetings as "church," and to members as "full patch" because they wear full Hells Angels three-piece jackets and vests. Prospective members undergo a long hazing process, often including running errands and doing menial tasks for members in addition to participating in criminal activities. Full membership is only possible with the unanimous vote of all chapter members, and both members and their girlfriends and wives wear the number 81, which stands for the alphabetical positions of the letters H and A. Members who get kicked out of their chapter must color over their Hells Angels tattoos. The Rock Hill City chapter members face various charges of intimidation, extortion, narcotics distribution, money laundering, arson, trafficking in stolen goods, prostitution, and firearms trafficking. The 62-year-old group is international, and was recently the target of large-scale raids across northern Germany.

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